'What happens to all these stray cats in wintertime?", i asked my friend on the way to the hospital.

'They'll eventually die.'

Wayne Coyne, the front man of the rock band, Flaming Lips, once mentioned that the feeling of losing someone of close proximity to you ie a neighbour or a close friend is different compared to losing someone of your own flesh and blood, ie your family members.

It's still autumn in Russia and just now my mama sms-ed me. It read, 'Apit. Teh had just left us. Around 1.45 am.'

I won't claim that he's my flesh and blood for 2 reasons. One, he's a cat. Second, he is, in fact, a cat.

And i won't even state that i was close to him in any way. He was just too scared of alpha males like me. Once, he smacked the sliding door trying to escape my presence when i just arrived back from Langkawi. He would recognize me as a female when my legs are enveloped in my sarong and not run away from me. However, we created a bond last summer, partly due to the fact that he was sick and tired of avoiding me, albeit the bond was rather temporary. Once the left lens of my old black thick rimmed spectacles accidentally fell into the toilet bowl and was flushed into eternity, i had to wear my newly made spectacles.

Instantly, he didn't remember the face and was scared of me like he used to. Maybe it was his way of telling me, 'Hey, you don't look cool in those spectacles, therefore i am running away from you' in body language.

There were actually a few cats in the house, one by one passed away. Teh was the last one remaining, until tonight.

Sometimes, i think those cats were Godsent. Not in a divine way, that is; they didn't just drop from the sky. They started roaming around the house at a crossroad of my family life. I was studying in Langkawi, my sisters were in Kuala Lumpur and Shah Alam respectively. And that left my mom home alone most of the time after my grandma left the house to stay at her kampung.

And so the cats were there to accompany my mom most of the time.

Abu passed away at the vet, Teh kecik was killed in accident in front of the house, Tam was found dead lying in the bushes in the field opposite our house. And luckily, God gave us the chance to take care of Teh Besar til he passed away, and i would imagine that he passed away cuddled in between my mother, who has been sleeping downstairs since he was sick and my sister, Aiza, who has been coming back to Alor Setar from Kuala Lumpur for the past few weeks.

Teh battled with tick bites, cheesy abscesses, jaundice, dehydration, renal failure, and had attacks of seizures. For a cat the family considered as unmanly (he would come back home with scars, presumably attacks from other cats), it was a courageous effort on his part.

I was hoping the cat would be safe til i arrive back home next summer, so that my mama has a friend at home. But maybe i was asking too much. That's just how a cat lives. Eats, sleeps, inseminates, and dies.

And for my mum and my sister, for being wonderful bearers of those cats, i admire you both. Especially to my sister, who once drove back from KL few weeks ago because flight tickets back to Alor Setar ran out and she wanted so badly to come back to see Teh. May your compassion be rewarded by the powers that be.

Cats, as they say, may have 9 lives. And in their tenth life, they live in our memories forever.

Those cats might have not been our flesh and blood, but we feel as though we have lost a part of the family.

May you all find peace in cat heaven. Thank you for your clumsiness.
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